Bryan Hoyer, CEO

I spent over 25 years in Silicon Valley working as an inventor, hardware engineer and entrepreneur. In 2001 I bought a boat to sail around the world and decided to get my Ham license in order to access the marine nets and use Airmail/Sailmail to keep in touch. I ended up selling the boat and moving to San Juan Island WA in the fall of 2007.

Living on an island, I decided to break out my HT and check in to the local repeater. I joined the local club soon thereafter and became involved with Emergency Communications. The club was just rolling out their county radio solution which included a 1200 baud TNC connected to a VHF radio and laptop.

I was totally underwhelmed. Why would you spend that much money and cable it together yourself just to not go very fast? Well I can’t seem to leave a problem alone so I started working on a solution, first playing with Sound Card Packet to eliminate the TNC.

Then at a club meeting I met Basil. It turns out we both lived in the Santa Cruz area and worked a block apart at the same time, in the same industry without ever meeting. I was a hardware guy. Basil did software. Let’s fix this.

Basil Gunn, Director of SW Engineering

I’ve worked at startups since moving from Canada to Silicon Valley in the 70s, some more successful than others. I understand the value of Open Source software and have used it successfully before. So I bought a SheevaPlug and went to work, first porting Linux RMS to the platform then picking up Paclink UNIX and finishing it.

We now had a lower cost flexible platform for development. All we needed to do was integrate it into a single package.

John Hays, Director of Marketing

Back in the late 1970s, a digital movement started in Amateur Radio.  Hams were creating digital protocols for  radio, and developed what became known as Packet Radio.  At that time, the Internet wasn’t as pervasive and over the radio email, bulletin boards, chat rooms and file sharing were intriguing enough that many hams spent a great time and energy building networks on packet radio.  It mostly ran on 1200 bps modems over analog FM radios.  I was very involved in the movement, being an early adopter even before standards were settled.  Gradually, over the years, the networks fell into disuse as the Internet rose, but a hearty few found applications that used the network and there are very active communities on packet for emergency communications and position reporting (APRS).  The path to a higher speed network, that could travel many miles, was and is elusive, so much of the data for these applications is still 1200 baud or less.

Along came the JARL (Japanese Amateur Radio League), who invented some protocols for digital voice and a data service.  These protocols are open and available for anyone to implement, and Icom Corporation jumped in providing radios, repeaters, and access points along with software to allow local pockets of activity to reach others via Internet transport.  After a slow start, D-STAR has grown to a world wide network of interconnected  repeaters and access points.

I got interested in D-STAR a few years ago and was intrigued by the data service side of things, but there were a couple of barriers.  The radios for it only operated on the 1240-1300 MHz. band, which makes putting up good feed lines for antennas expensive, and properly done beyond the average technical skill of the users.  The radios also are quite expensive, having a street price in the range of $1000 after nearly a decade on the market and because of the cost of components to generate high power at that frequency range, they only run a few watts to the antenna.  So not a lot of hams are ready to put out that amount of money for a 128kbps data radio.  It’s a fine radio, but these factors hurt its adoption.

Fast forward to September 2010 and I was giving a couple of talks on D-STAR at the Digital Communications Conference sponsored by TAPR (who brought us much of early packet radio), in Vancouver, Washington.  I did a talk on “home brew” D-STAR Repeaters and after going over what was happening in the area of DIY on D-STAR, I had a list of things I would like to see.  One item on that list was a radio for D-STAR’s data service (Digital Data or “DD”), it would be a simple “headless” radio, power and Ethernet in one end and a good antenna connector at the other end, affordable, and simple.

After the talk I was approached by a gentleman, who introduced himself as Bryan Hoyer, along with his friend Basil Gunn, and that he would like to build that radio.  He lives on San Juan Island between the mainland and Victoria, BC, Canada in Washington State. Over the next several months we three became friends and started meeting to plan the radio.

Today with very high integration technology both for computing and for radios, all of that can be built into a quite small package and as long as you have a full computer bundled in with the radio, there is no reason not to support multiple protocols and applications in the radio.  There’s no extra hardware to do so, it’s a matter of software and firmware.

Bryan, again

Have you talked to Dennis?

As the project moved forward and hardware became real, we started giving previews of the project at local events. People kept saying, “It looks interesting, but have you talked to Dennis?”.

Dennis Rosenauer built a complete 56 kbps modem and RF deck back in the 80s. He had a 70 mile RF link fully operational for many years, but eventually gave it up because there wasn’t anyone to play with.

When I first met Dennis he told me that it had all been done before and there wasn’t really any interest. I explained the packaging and price point and although he was willing to help, he wasn’t convinced it would fly.

I received this email later that evening:

Hi Bryan.

Thanks for the interesting meeting.  As I think of your project more, I think it has greater potential than I had initially thought.

and then there were four

Dennis Rosenauer, Director of RF Engineering

Annaliese McDermond, NH6Z

Anna is a former Vice President and member of the board of directors of TAPR (www.tapr.org) and well known in the amateur community for her work with Software Defined Radio (SDR). She is author of Heterodyne, a software defined radio application for MacOS X and iOS devices supporting the OpenHPSDR (www.openhpsdr.org) project hardware.  Anna’s latest creation is Buster, a recently released application supporting the ThumbDV and PiDV on MacOS X.

You may have seen Anna speak at a variety of conferences including Dayton Hamvention, MicroHAMS digital conference and TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference.  She has been active in the Summits on the Air (www.sota.org.uk) hiking to the tops of many mountains in the Northwest United States to make QSOs with his trusty KX3.  She also operates the T2OREGON APRS-IS server.

When not immersed in ham radio, Anna serves as Network Engineer and has been a UNIX systems engineer for nearly 20 years.  She is also a member of the Oregon State Bar Association.

We are excited about adding Anna’s skills to the team and look forward to her contribution to NW Digital Radio products.